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Interface and Interaction to Promote Human-Machine Collaboration


Unit Name:
Human-Machine Coagency
Unit representative:
Professor Toshiyuki Inagaki, Faculty of Engineering, Information and Systems

Unit members:
20 (6 faculty members, no postdoctoral fellows, 14 from other organizations)

Key words:
human-machine coagency, human factors, human-centered automation, authority and responsibility, and adaptive function allocation



There are many “smart machines” around us. These machines have increased the safety of systems, reduced burdens placed on people, and improved comfort. On the other hand, overtrust in machines may cause a variety of incidents and accidents. Our research unit discusses the relationship between advanced technological systems and people from the viewpoints of engineering, psychology, and the law to establish a new academic discipline, named “human-machine coagency.” Our research goal is to solve problems to help humans and machines compensate for each other, and provide people in Japan and other countries with research findings to contribute to society.

Human- machine collaborations in risk environment

Various transportation systems, such as trains, automobiles, and aircraft, have adopted a variety of technologies to support human operators. However, these systems are not guaranteed to function in the event of an unexpected situation which they are not designed for. In such a situation, problems will have to be addressed solely by human operators despite a lack of time and information. However, damage may be caused and humans in charge may have to assume liability for it, no matter how hard they try to solve the problems. In such an environment involving unexpected risks, it is necessary to review the relationship between humans and machines and discuss how people should live in harmony with them (Figure 1). To this end, we aim to develop a multilayered safety control system with resilience, which secures the safety of transportation systems, and propose a new legal theory in relation to criminal negligence liability.

Figure 1: Expected and unexpected events

Figure 1: Expected and unexpected events

Humans and machines may rely on each other, but not in an excessive manner

In the operation of transportation systems, standard operating procedures to be conducted in specific situations have been established. When the operators of trains conduct important procedures associated with safety, they must comply with instructions from the operation room and receive their permission. However, judgment made by the operator himself /herself sometimes prevents accidents. This is a good example of the excellent ability of humans to capture the essence of an unexpected event and improvise procedures to avoid risks. On the other hand, the human may become excessively dependent on the machine; as in the case in which a driver assistance system applies an automatic brake to prevent an accident every time when it detects risks (Figure 2). Our research unit develops methodologies to design robust and resilient systems that allow humans and machines to compensate for each other’s capacity limitations and cooperate to help each other enhance their strengths (Figure 3).

Figure 2 : Multitier support

Figure 2 : Multitier support

Figure 3 : Driver Assistance

Figure 3 : Driver Assistance

Social contributions and achievements
● Vice chairperson of the “Fifth Review Committee for the Promotion of Advanced Safety Vehicles (ASV)” and the Section President of the “Section Committee for Driving Support Designing” (from 2011) established by the Road Transport Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
● A member of the “Expert Council for Driving Safety Support Systems (DSSS)” established by the National Police Agency (2009 to 2010)
● A member of the “Fourth Review Committee for the Promotion of Advanced Safety Vehicles (ASV)” (2006 to 2011) and the leader of the “Task Force for Safe Driving Support Systems” (2009 to 2011) established by the Road Transport Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
● Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.: “Research on human factors in high-functional driving support systems”, “Research on driver’s acceptance of automated driving systems”
● Japan Railway East: “A study of advanced information environment for train operators”

(Interviewed on September 26, 2013)

Research Administration/Management Office at U Tsukuba TEL 029-853-4434